Recruiting Software – Rolling Your Own

Oh no! This is the worst decision a recruiting firm (Contingency or Retained) can make.

I can make countless analogies here. Would a surgeon operate on himself or make his own instruments? Do pianists build their own pianos? Does a pilot build his own plane? Why would a recruiting firm build their own recruiting software? It does not make sense, unless the recruiting firm is global with thousands of employees. Even then I would question the wisdom of this decision. Yet there is not one week that has gone by in my 15 years of giving recruiting software demos where I find a firm seriously considering such a decision!

I believe buying the worst recruiting software application is better than building your own even if the custom software does work well and does exactly what you want. Although you will soon find out that it never will.

The worst that can come of building your own recruiting software is that you are actually successful and have it working pretty well. Then the money pit and resource drain starts. Every time computers and/or software evolve to new heights your spiffy recruiting software stays where it was, or you invest in yet another round of upgrades and retrofitting. Better hope those computer geniuses are still around to make the changes or else your new computer genius may say “this is spaghetti code and we need to start all over”. J

So, why do some recruiting firms do it or even consider it? I don’t really know, but here are some of my best guesses from most to least likely.

A successful recruiting firm has a business model that does not quite fit their current software or anything they have looked at. Of all the reasons for rolling your own, this is probably the best. But, it is still wrong. The development will cause lack of focus on recruiting. The long range effects are still just as devastating because the recruiting software monster once created will have to be fed and cared for. Similar to your children coming to you with tears in their eyes for the adorable puppy and you say yes. After about a year, guess who ends up feeding it, walking it and taking the now full grown dog to the vet. Does your custom recruiting software pay its way by contributing more to revenues than other commercial software? I doubt it! A pot of gold does not exist at the end of the custom recruiting software rainbow.

Another reason may be that the recruiting firm is a start up and doesn’t see anything that fits its perceived business model. The watch word here is “perceived”. The firm has no idea how it will actually be functioning a year from now if it survives. Why in the world would you be writing a recruiting tool for a recruiting method that has not proven itself?

And finally the worst reason for rolling your own! The owner or a partner prides him/her self on their own technical prowess and possibly has even written a program or two. I cannot think of a better way to assure failure for either the software or the recruiting company. Ah, the pride of authorship and believing “I can do everything better than anyone”; tsk, tsk glad I never worked with you as a recruiter.

Ok, so what do you do if you have looked and looked and can’t find anything you like but you absolutely need some kind of recruiting software? Find the one that is the closest fit, make it work, stop worrying about technique and get on with the business of recruiting.

Almost all software of any kind at best answers about 80% of what you want to do with it. Here are some tips on selecting recruiting software, taken from our web site at

1. The first step is to have a good idea of how you do, and want to do, your recruiting. If you are already thinking about rolling your own this should be no problem.

2. Decide on the recruiting software before you buy the hardware. So many times I have seen someone buy an expensive piece of computer hardware and then start looking for software to run the business with and find that the choices are limited because of the hardware.

3. Determine the prospects of your vendor being around for you five years from now. Once you have converted or entered your recruiting data into a recruiting system, you are dependent on being able to get at it or at least convert it. If your vendor goes out of business you may have serious problems in getting to your resume database.

4. Determine the software tools that were used to build the recruiting system, i.e. computer language, database engines and other software tools. What you’re looking for is to make sure that your recruiting software is not dependent on some specialized software tool or vendor that may not be able to or may not want to keep up with the rapid changes in the computing industry. For my customer’s protection, I like to put my money on Microsoft’s flagship products, i.e. MS WORD, MS ACCESS, EXCEL, OUTLOOK, VISUAL BASIC, C#, SQL SERVER and the latest and greatest Windows operating system.

5. Determine the quality of the product with some bellwether questions; does the product have a demo? Will the demo un-install from your computer? Where and what is the size of the customer support staff? Evaluate the quality of the documentation.

6. Finally perform some simple bench marks relating to the amount of work required to perform basic recruiting tasks. Remember that basic recruiting steps are performed many times a day and the time consumed mounts rapidly if the task is just a few keystrokes or clicks more.
From the point of entry to the system, how long, how many keystrokes and/or clicks does it take me to find a person picked at random based on skills, name, salary and or geography?
How long, how many keystrokes and/or clicks does it take me to get a phone number of a person from various points in the database?

How quickly can I find out the latest conversation with a client or applicant that has just called, while I am performing other tracking tasks?

From any point in the database what steps do I have to perform to search for information? Are my searches restricted to certain areas or can every field that displays or accepts data be queried? When I do search for information and the results are displayed, can the displayed information be changed or updated or is another task or screen required for updating? Is there ownership responsibility for the data entered into the database? Can you tell who entered a note, job order, calendar or resume? What are its emailing capabilities for initial and broadcast emails? How does it get along with MS OUTLOOK?

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